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The Spiritual Detour: Bypassing

Updated: Sep 3, 2023

Spiritual bypassing, a term coined by psychologist John Welwood in the 1980s, refers to the tendency of some individuals to use spiritual practices and beliefs as a way to avoid dealing with unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and developmental tasks. This form of psychological avoidance can lead to a distorted and unhealthy version of spirituality, characterized by emotional repression and disconnection from reality.

Understanding Spiritual Bypassing

Spiritual bypassing can manifest in various ways, but some common examples include:

1. Denying or repressing negative emotions, such as anger or sadness, in the name of positivity or spiritual growth.

2. Using spiritual practices, like meditation or yoga, as a way to escape from problems rather than addressing them directly.

3. Dismissing others' experiences or emotions by labeling them as "unenlightened" or "ego-driven."

4. Attributing everything that happens to divine will, fate, or the law of karma, without taking responsibility for one's own actions.

The Law of Karma and Spiritual Bypassing

The law of karma, a fundamental concept in Eastern spiritual traditions, teaches that every action (karma) has a consequence, and that these consequences are carried forward through successive lives. While this understanding can help cultivate mindfulness, self-awareness, and responsibility, it can also be misused as a means of spiritual bypassing.

For example, someone may attribute their current suffering to past life actions or karmic debt, using it as an excuse to avoid taking responsibility for their current actions and emotions. Alternatively, they may use the concept of karma to justify their own or others' suffering as deserved, rather than extending compassion and understanding.

"Soul" (2020) and Spiritual Bypassing

The movie "Soul" follows the journey of Joe, a music teacher and aspiring jazz musician who, after an accident, finds himself in the "Great Before," a place where souls are prepared for their upcoming lives on Earth. In his quest to return to his body, Joe meets 22, a soul that has spent eons avoiding Earth life, fearing the pain and suffering that come with it.

The film serves as a metaphor for spiritual bypassing, as 22's avoidance of life on Earth could be seen as an attempt to bypass the challenges, pain, and growth that come with human existence. Joe's own journey also demonstrates that the pursuit of spiritual growth and self-discovery must be balanced with an authentic engagement with the realities of everyday life, including the challenges, emotions, and responsibilities that come with it.


Spiritual bypassing is a common pitfall on the path to self-discovery and spiritual growth. Recognizing and addressing this issue requires a willingness to confront our

Here is a short video on Spiritual Bypassing -

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